Author Archives: Michael Coorlim

About Michael Coorlim

Michael Coorlim is a teller of strange stories for stranger people. He collects them, the oddballs. The mystics and fire-spinners, the sages and tricksters. He curates their tales, combines their elements and lets them rattle around inside his rock-tumbler skull until they gleam, then spills them loose onto the page for like-minded readers to enjoy.

Midwestern Requiem serial episode 1 excerpt

The Murphysboro Ladies’ Book Club had become a coven so gradually that at first nobody had noticed.

Holly Lu was not having it. “This is beyond the pale, Katherine. Even for you.” Her eyes darted to the dribbly candles, colorful crystals, and reed-woven designs that now decorated the Andersons’ living room, purse clutched tightly in her hands.

Katherine looked up from the ritual notes she’d printed up, surprise melting to irritation, and gave a meaningful nod towards the kitchen. She could just hear Amy’s soft voice contrasting with the rise and fall of Sharon’s rapid babble, though she couldn’t make out what the pair were saying.

“I swear, this is just too much.” Holly looked pointedly at Susan, who’d only half taken off her coat.

Susan’s smile wavered, and she slipped her coat back up onto her shoulder. “It is a bit much, Kathy.”

Katherine’s eyes dropped back down to the page she was reading. “There’s no call to be so close-minded, Holly.” Her voice was carefully level.

“Close-minded?” Holly didn’t take the hint. “Katherine, I have been very very patient with the new girl and her… her eccentricities. She’s young. Finding herself. Experimenting. That I can understand, that I can tolerate. But this… pagan rituals?”

Mr. Sprinkles, the Anderson family’s six-year-old calico, watched the interplay with disinterest, sitting on the sofa with one leg raised high as she groomed herself.

“It does seem a bit… unchristian,” Susan said, though it came out as more of a question.

“The new girl’s name is Amy and she’s been a member of the Book Club for seven months.”

Katherine’s gaze held Holly’s over the edge of the print-out. “I’m getting tired of explaining to you that we’re a nondenominational organization. You’re allowed to say your Baptist prayers at Christmas and

Easter, Amy planned the Samhain party for Halloween.” She was careful to pronounce the unfamiliar holiday correctly, sow-in not sam-hane. “It’s the same thing.”

“It is most certainly not the same thing!” Holly’s face was reddening. “And it isn’t just the party. The prayer before Imbolc? The ritual to ask the gods for help passing her phlebotomy exam? It’s heathen!”

“Wiccan. Heathen is something else.” Katherine was fairly sure.

“Listen to you! You’re a good Catholic, Katherine. What would Father Paterson say if he knew how much you’d taken to Amy Forrester and her, her ways?”

“Oh, Amy and her ways.” Katherine didn’t exactly raise her voice, but it did gain an edge. “I swear, you’re going to give yourself a stroke if you don’t unclench that jaw, Holly.”

“Well.” Holly tucked her purse under her arm. “I can see that you’re too far gone down the devil’s path for reason. I wish you well with your… your Blasphemy Club, Katherine.” She strode to the door.

Susan followed, looking back and forth between Holly and Katherine with little darting glances.

Katherine followed them to the door. “You’re leaving? Now? Right when Sharon needs us?”

Holly opened the door and paused, halfway out. “You’re the one who needs help, Katherine. And I only hope that Jesus’s light can help you crawl out of this dark pit you’ve thrown yourself into. Come along, Susan.”

Katherine put an arm out to bar the shorter woman’s way. “You too Susan? Come on, you loved reading Practical Magic.”

Susan gave a half smile and ducked under Katherine’s arm. “I’m sorry, I have to go.” She slipped out the door.

“Well, shit.” Katherine slowly closed the door, honestly taken aback at how quickly things had gotten out of hand. Holly had always been a bit zealous in her Christianity, and out of all the book club members the most likely to challenge Katherine’s authority on minor matters. And Susan… well, Susan was a wildcard, the sort of woman who’d follow the loudest voice, and this time that’d been Holly.

Disappointing, really, but not terribly surprising.

Maybe Holly had a point. Maybe Katherine had gone too far in trying to accommodate Amy and her unusual beliefs. Maybe it was a step too far in choosing paganism as the Book Club’s theme for the year, letting Amy choose books tied to her faith, going so far as to head out to that little antique shop out in De Soto to get the curios to decorate her living room to fit that theme. Maybe she was endangering her immortal soul, trafficking with witchcraft.

But so what? Holly was a busybody that the club was better off without, and Katherine wasn’t the sort of woman who did anything by half-measures. And Susan… well, they were still on the school’s bake sale committee together, so Katherine would have ample opportunity to win her back. And if not? No big loss. Susan’s lemon bars never came out right, anyway.

Amy poked her head out of the kitchen. “Is everything okay? We thought we heard shouting.”

Katherine returned to the coffee table, shooing away Mr. Sprinkles and straightening the candlestick she’d knocked over. “Holly and Susan have elected not to participate in today’s ritual.”

“Oh.” Amy watched the cat scamper off out of the room. “It’s for the best. Their energy wasn’t really conducive to the work we’re going to be doing.”

“No.” Katherine put her laptop on top of the table, scrolling through her bookmarks to find the ritual she’d found earlier. “It wasn’t. How’s Sharon?”

“Better. As well as can be expected. Should I get the sage?”

“Yes.” Katherine straightened one of the sofa cushions. “You do that.”


Midwestern Requiem is a horror serial set in the mythic midwest of Southern Illinois’s Little Egypt, suburban sprawl trapped between the crumbling outlet malls and the endless fields of corn bisected by lost highways to nowhere. Kitchen witches and small-town teachers stand against eternal winters and the lies we tell ourselves under a land-locked moon.

During the solar eclipse a young girl goes missing from a school trip while everyone’s eyes are on the totality. The police, her parents, and her friends are at a loss to find out where’s she’s gone or even to explain her disappearance… but where the ways of the modern world fail, the traditions of old may yet hold hope, but magic always holds its price.

Midwestern Requiem is made available free to the supporters of my Patreon as an interactive serial – patrons can vote on the direction the story takes at the end of each chapter. It will later be made available through Amazon, though only patrons will have voting privileges.

So if you want to read the whole first episode, you can download it for free from my Patreon. If you want to keep reading and have a say in which way the story unfolds, consider signing up to support my work.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

How Self-Publishing Saved My Life

Self-Publishing saved my life. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

In 2010 I was broke and homeless, couch surfing and living off the fumes of a never terribly vibrant bank account. I hadn’t been able to find any freelance gigs in months, and it’d been far loger since I’d been anything other than self-employed. I was registered with several creative temp agencies, and would occasionally score an interview or two.

Bupkis.

I was running out of money and burning through what little goodwill my very patient friends still had for me. My twenties and thirties had been spent nomadic, living out of a suitcase, drifting about in a way that wasn’t anywhere as romantic as it sounds, but I’d never had such a difficult time finding work. This was new and terrible.

As you might imagine, the charm of sending out endless resumes and going on interviews wore thin after awhile. I began to first resent, then dread the treadmill. Writing became my form of procrastination.

I’ve always been a storyteller

I was a compulsive writer as a kid, filling notebooks with drawings before I could spell. And the reading. So much reading. I’d bring a book with me everywhere. I’d sneak books to read hidden under the lip of my desk during lectures. Classic lit, books from the class cart, whatever I could find. Lots of Bradbury. I think he was my favorite, but it’s hard to connect with who I was back then.

My twenties were spent hopping from menial job to menial job. Mall cop. Quality control in a chemical plant. Janitor in a state mental hospital. Day laborer. Whatever I could do to keep myself going until I drifted on to something else, never making much money, never having a life to really call my own. I stopped writing somewhere along the way, stopped reading. There was nothing but work, sleep, and work again, skimming the poverty line, wearing away all of my most interesting ridges bit by bloody bit. I’m sure I lived some interesting stories, but they’re not something I’m ready to talk about yet.

I still self-identified as a writer. Still figured I’d get back to it some day. Still bought copies of Writer’s Market every year, but I never got any further than sending off for submission guidelines. And eventually, “some day” turns into “never.”

Back to Self-Publishing.

So it’s mid-2010. I write a short story about the apocalypse, a literary horror thing, my first bit of fiction in over a decade. I liked it. Friends I showed it to liked it. I found myself a list of all the publications likely to pick it up, chose one, checked out their web page, and sent it off.

Then went back to the job hunt, largely forgetting about what I’d written. A month or so later I get a rejection notice — my first rejection for the first story I’d ever submitted, the first story I’d written in years. I’d steeled myself for this. I knew this was the biz. I’d read enough articles.

Except.

This was a personal rejection. The editor included a note that the story was

An almost. Brutal in a Lord of the Flies sort of way.

And I found that very encouraging. My first story, my first rejection, an almost.

Well.

My old dreams came flooding back. I remembered what it was like to have aspirations, to believe that I could be something, that I could have something. Suddenly, I really wanted to be a writer again. I wanted writing, to be my life. And I was good enough!

And yet I didn’t send the story out again immediately. I was close to going from “couchsurfing homeless” to “gutter homeless.” It’d take at least a month to sell the story, then many more months for the story to be published before I’d see a dime.

I didn’t have time for that. But I lived in the future now, didn’t I?

I said SELF-PUBLISHING

I’d been hearing about self-publishing and the way that e-marketplaces had been changing the landscape, but hadn’t looked into it too deeply. I did some research and found out that the payoff would be much sooner — royalties were disbursed two months after accrual. That I could do. Two months I had.

So I wrote a few more stories, researched self-publishing some more, and put them up on Amazon. That first month I made ten dollars.

Ten real dollars. I was a goddamn professional author.

The next month I made thirty. Enough to chip in a little for food, so I didn’t feel like so much the mooch. By the end of 2012 I was taking in four-figures of royalties every month, living in my own place.

So that’s me.

That’s my story. How I got where I am. I’m not rich, not by a longshot, but I’d consider myself a successful professional author. Sure, the market moved on, and Amazon changed things up so that I’m back to barely scraping by, but I know what I’m doing. Any one book could be the one that takes off unexpectedly, my lottery tickets to financial stability and the heights of a lower-middle class lifestyle.

Until then, until I make it, I’ll keep plugging away, keep writing, keep trying new things. It’s all I can do.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Three Interactive Serial Pitches

My next project is an interactive serial where my patrons are able to vote on the direction the story flows at the end of each episode. I have three prospective story ideas to choose between, and I’m letting potential readers vote on which one they find the most appealing.

To help people decide, I’ve created a pitch video containing information on each of the three potential storylines.

Have an opinion? Questions? Let me know in the comments.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Bullet Journal Walkthrough

As a creative professional with a lot of different projects up in the air at any given time, I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity and better organize my workflow. I’ve tried a number of different methods, and the latest iteration involves what is known as a bullet journal.

A bullet journal is simply an analog method of tracking your life. I find that the mental process of writing something out longhand is distinct from typing or other digital record keeping, so the creative process of making the journal itself, while not terribly time consuming, is part of the process.

Here’s the basic structure of my journal.

Index

The first spread in my hardcover journal is the index to the rest of it, and I present it here in four columns.


The first column is for quarterly, monthly, and daily logs. The second is for project tracking. The third is for lists. And the fourth is basically everything else.

Logs

At the highest level I’m tracking everything quarterly; this fits both my general production schedule and the fact that I’m starting this journal at the beginning of July, the first month of the third quarter.

On the left page of the spread you can see each of the three months of the third quarter, where I’ll add long-range notes and scheduling information. On the right you can see my third quarter goals:

  • Release Open Proxy
  • Finish Galvanic Century Fate Core
  • Consistent Twitch and YouTube content creation
  • 12 short stories
  • 6 working class creative episodes.

The mid-level are my monthly spreads. On the left we have the days of each month with whatever events or notes are necessary. On the right we have a wordcount tracker, and color coded trackers for any other habits that I’m trying to build consistency with, as well as my weekly Twitch and YouTube schedules for the month.

As you can see I spent much of the first few days of the month engaged in administrative nonsense, so I haven’t actually had time to write anything, stream, or practice my pixel art skills.

Finally, we have the daily logs. These are mostly checklists of what each day requires, random notes, and other events.

These logs form the basis of the journal’s activity tracking, to-do listing, and general note taking. I’m sure the style and format will evolve as I get used to them and figure out what exactly I need to do to make them useful in the sense of my own personal workflow.

Project Tracking

I’m also using the bullet journal to track the progress of the different creative projects I have up in the air at any given time.

Pictured here is the page for Open Proxy, tracking its development through the process of pre-writing, revision, cover design, layout, release, and marketing.

It still needs a little work, I think, but you get the general idea.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Trick Shot: A Shooting Gallery Remake

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that one of my hobbies is game design. Now, I’m an author, a podcast producer, and I publish RPGs, so the line between “job” and “hobby” is thin, but perhaps best addressed with the question: Does it make me any money?

Game Development does not. We’re talking video games here, not the tabletop RPG stuff that I sell.

Trick Shot

How to Play:

Click on the game screen above to make sure it has focus, otherwise you won’t be able to play.

Rubber duckies will scroll from top to bottom. You have 5 shots to hit each one, firing by pressing the space bar. The goal is to shoot as many as you can in two minutes. After each hit, your rifle will be placed in a random spot with a random orientation, so the trick is to figure out the timing before using up all five of your bullets.

Why did I make this?

Trick Shot is a very simple game made for a very simple reason. Two reasons, really.

  1. Actually finish a project
  2. Figure out some stuff in gamemaker

So I took a day and I made this from scratch based on the old 1976 Fairchild Channel F game Shooting Gallery. Making the duck pixel art was probably the most time consuming. It’s not perfect; sometimes the gun will spawn facing slightly to the left making hitting the targets impossible. If I had a mind to, I’d add more resolution options and the potential of touchscreen/mouse support.

But why bother? It’s a simple little game that isn’t really intended for public consumption. Just a learning tool. That said, I’ll be releasing a stand alone executable slightly improved version for my patrons on Patreon. Not much of an incentive, I know.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

“Best Novelist” nomination

I’ve been nominated for the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” Best Novelist award. I have no idea what twist of fate has led to my name alongside Mary Robinette Kowal, Kathleen Rooney, and Stacey Ballis, but I full intend to take advantage of this glitch in the matrix before it corrects itself.

My latest novel, Network Protocol, has also been nominated for “Best New Novel.” What?

So g’wan. If you’re a fan of what I write, vote for me. It’d be a huge help, even if I don’t win.

To Vote:

Go to the Ballot, click on my name. It might have you sign up or just give your email address. Oh, and you’ll have to disable adblock to get it to work. I appreciate your sacrifice. You can also vote for Network Protocol.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Network Protocol, second in the cyberpunk thriller series Shadow Decade, has been released

Network Protocol, the 2nd book in the cyberpunk thriller series Shadow Decade, has just been released.

The family you choose can get you killed

Spring has come to Chicago, and Erica has adapted well enough to the future to settle into a peaceful routine. She fills out applications, goes on job interviews, avoids people, and tries to adjust by watching the decade of television that she’s missed. The less she leaves her apartment, the less confusing 2026 seems, and Kate — the ruthlessly competent inner voice that’s kept her safe — has been silent since the mastermind behind the attempts on her life was arrested.

Still, social isolation isn’t all its chalked up to be. Erica’s lack of a support network becomes increasingly problematic as the gang that runs her Block gets swept up into a citywide gang-war, and narrowed eyes increasingly see her as an outsider in their midst. Can she open up enough to find acceptance?

For the first week of release, until the end of April 2017, both Network Protocol and the first book in the series, Cold Reboot, are available in ebook format for $0.99 cents. That’s a $2 investment, cool, right?

Both books are also available as paperbacks for around $15 through Amazon. I’ll be shipping it out to all of my $10+ patrons around the first of May, so if you want to get it a little cheaper consider signing up for my Patreon. I only ship out the paperbacks and hardcovers the one time, so if you want a copy that way, now’s the time to sign up to avoid missing out.

  • $15.99 paperback from Amazon

Speaking of hardcovers, those will be available in late May, early June. If you want one, I’d suggest maybe picking up the ebook now while it’s a dollar, and then signing up for to my mailing list to get notification when that’s available. Or, if you support my Patreon at the $25 level, you get the hardcover when it goes out. As an added bonus, if you subscribe to the Patreon at any level, you get a free download link for my ebooks. All of them. All of the released books. And bonus episodes of the Working Class Creatives podcast. And a bunch of other stuff.

If you do pick up a copy, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Write a review. Post it to your blog or Amazon, put a link in the comments below. It really helps out.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

On YouTube: A Vlog

So, that interview podcast I launched? Yeah, well, thing is, I’m not the greatest extemporaneous speaker. It’s not really my job. I’m a writer, I give words so other people can say them.

So I started this vlog to help be get better at the talky-talk. Check it:

Eh? Eh? Eh. Well, it’s a start. Subscribe to it if you want to see where it goes. Comment and let me know if you have any advice.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

On Marvel and Diversity: Track more than direct sales, idiots

Marvel Comics has blamed its declining sales on their lackluster attempts to shoehorn in “diversity” simply by having comics feature female and POC characters. Marvel’s sales have been in a steady decline since the late 1970s, and this sinking spiral is due to a neverending cascade of poor business decisions.

Direct Market

Marvel and DC Comics track their sales almost exclusively through direct market pre-sales. Chances are you didn’t know that, and may not be entirely sure what that means, because it’s some hardcore nerd talk. Basically it means that sales only count through the distributors to comic book stores.

Specifically, when the owners pre-order comics several months before the books are released. It doesn’t matter how many copies the store actually sells; the numbers are crunched back when orders for the new issue are first taken.

Yes. That means that any hype that springs up after the first issue of a book pretty much doesn’t count. If the issues fly off the stack like mad? Doesn’t count. If you wait and buy the trade paperback? Doesn’t count. Buy a digital copy online? Doesn’t count. Fan appreciation? Doesn’t count.

Unless you asked your comic book guy to pre-order you a copy as soon as the book’s listing shows up in the distributor catalog, your purchase doesn’t count. Oh, sure, if a title picks up steam and sells out fast our shop owner might order more copies for the newest issues, but for a monthly book that’s looking at at least the third issue, and books often take a few issues to pick up steam. Especially if Marvel isn’t pushing them very hard, and the title relies entirely on fan review and word of mouth.

Which is usually the case.

So Diverse Book X is announced and listed in the catalog. The only people who pay attention are the hardcore comic fans, who, as a group, may not care about attempts to reach out to a broader audience or be actively hostile to it. They may not seem interested, which leads the shop owner to order low.

Comic Rack

A few months later, the book shows up in the shop. Maybe people love it. Maybe they eat it up. Maybe its a slower burn, but by the time shop owners realize and up their orders, Marvel is already disappointed in sales, so they’ve cut back their expectations.

The book, regardless of popularity, is canceled based on sales data from months ago.

The Fans

So sales decline because the only metric that reaches Marvel (and, incidentally, DC) are how comic book stores think that their fans will feel about their comics. And the fans themselves are an increasingly shrinking niche audience.

Young Romance ComicBack in the 1970s Superhero Comics were only one of many genres. There were war comics, and crime comics, and horror comics, and westerns, and mysteries, and romance. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon started Young Romance, a comic that persisted for 208 issues with really excellent sales. Comics were sold in gas stations and bookstores and newsstands and basically everywhere, so were easily accessible to the general public.

Then everything went to hell. There was a late 70s crash. The Big 2 shuttered a lot of their books. Marvel basically only survived the 70s on the strength of the Star Wars license.

The 80s weren’t much better, and the start of a series of poor business decisions predicated on short term benefit. The comics that sprang up were almost exclusively superhero-focused, creating the image of comic fans as interested in only a narrow slice of subject manner. Into the 90s both major companies engaged in gimmick after gimmick to profit from the speculator bubble of the era, establishing habits that would make it increasingly difficult for new fans to approach the media. Prices rose to increase profit margins even as the economy tanked.

Now, in 2017, Marvel’s event-heavy schedule and DCs incessant reboots have created an environment where new fans find it hard to invest in 28-page books that cost $3-4 a pop. Marvel and DCs’ target market is that shrinking population of collectors and die-hards who will keep buying even if they hate what’s being produced. Everyone else has cheaper entertainment options that don’t go out of their way to insult and exploit the readership.

And they blame “Diversity.”

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.